In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns who were freed after being held by rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
DAMASCUS — The Syrian government says it freed only 25 prisoners in exchange for 13 Greek Orthodox nuns who had been held by al-Qaeda-linked rebels — and not 150 as was reported earlier.
Qatari and Lebanese officials, who were mediating between Damascus and the rebels holding the nuns had said 150 women prisoners were released.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi insists only 25 prisoners were freed as part of the deal. He spoke today on state TV and did not say if the 25 were women.
His remarks were a rare acknowledgement by President Bashar Assad’s government on its actions surrounding the internationally-brokered exchange.
Damascus typically does not comment on releases in exchange for people held by rebels.
The nuns were abducted by al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front rebel group in December.